Uganda oil project critics visit Vatican to seek Pope's support

Pope Francis holds an audience on March 16, 2022 for the 50th anniversary of Milan's school "La Zolla", at St. Peter's basilica in The Vatican. PHOTO/FILE
 

What you need to know:

  • Pope Francis, who is particularly committed to the defence of the environment, has repeatedly denounced the exploitation of people and nature.

Environmental activists fighting to stop a giant oil pipeline project in Uganda raised their fears with the Vatican on Wednesday, in the hope of obtaining Pope Francis's public support.

The $10-billion deal signed by Chinese and French oil giants last month to unlock Uganda's energy resources has incensed critics, who say it risks damaging one of the world's most biodiverse regions.

"We need clean energy and a green economy which is better for people, which can employ many people," said Maxwell Atuhura, a member of AFIEGO, Uganda's leading environmental group.

Atuhura and three other campaigners met officials from the Vatican on Wednesday to discuss the pipeline.

"The pope is one of the most respected people in the world. He can help us amplify this message," said Atuhura, who visited the United Nations in Geneva on Monday as part of a European tour to raise awareness.

The deal announced by France's TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation should pave the way for the export of millions of barrels of the black gold first discovered in Uganda in 2006.

Supporters say it will serve as a major economic boost for the landlocked East African country where many live in poverty.

But others say it will threaten the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, and could damage fragile ecosystems in the heart of Africa.

The delegation visiting the Vatican said it could result in the displacement of 14,000 families, while 40 million people could see their drinking water contaminated and their natural environment destroyed.

Pope Francis, who is particularly committed to the defence of the environment, has repeatedly denounced the exploitation of people and nature.

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